Michael Innes: Apocalypse then
It's contemporary because of the stunning immediacy of the opening chapter's six-way colloquy about nuclear and biological apocalypse. It's nostalgic because the fear of apocalypse seems so 1980s, if not positively Cold War. These days, our collective fears are less about the end of humanity than about wars that will never end.
Anyhow, here's a bit about Innes, real name J.I.M. Stewart. Here's a bit about his protagonist, Inspector John Appleby. Stewart was a Scottish-born academic who taught at Leeds, Adelaide and Belfast before settling in at Christ Church, Oxford.
This is the first novel I remember reading whose author was a don, and the donnishness comes through in two ways so far, both positive. Stewart taught English literature, and he took his title from Women in Love: "(D)on't you find it a beautiful clean thought, a world empty of people, just uninterrupted grass and a hare sitting up?" That's an appropriate thought for musings upon the end of the world.
But the chat about apocalypse is the real tour de force. Five of the talkers are new Oxford graduates, full of the brashness of youth. The sixth is a schoolmaster: "Juniper found himself taking a deep breath. He hadn't much cared for the conference; he wasn't in very good spirits; he was fifty-two."
© Peter Rozovsky 2009